7 Nov 2016

Connecting Africa is here

We've got some big news:

We've just launched the first ever online community dedicated to tackling the immense scope of the African digital landscape. 

The community will provide in-depth coverage of all the latest news, updates and thought-leadership from the African tech and telco ecosystem.

Register now to get exclusive access to:
- News and updates
- Videos
- Webinars
- Radio shows
- Case studies
- Message boards 

This bigger and better community platform will now take the place of the comworldseries blog as we look to to provide our readers and event attendees with a more agile and comprehensive news source.

See you over at Connecting Africa.

Find out more here.

You can register here.

6 Nov 2016

The Countdown to AfricaCom 2016

Register for a free AfricaCom visitors' pass

By Amy Turner – Community Managing Editor, Connecting Africa

There’s just one week to go until Africa’s largest technology and telecommunications event kicks off in the Silicon Cape.

Like the region and sectors it serves, AfricaCom has gone through a massive transformation in recent years, looking to remain at the forefront of the most unique and dynamic markets and trends in the world.

Africa has seen a multitude of home-grown innovations flourish in recent years, which have sown the seeds to transform Africa into a truly digital continent. Already termed the ‘Mobile Continent’, Africa has developed in leaps and bounds in the areas of mobile money, m-Health initiatives, apps and local digital entertainment, and in the process has grabbed the attention of the world’s greatest tech leaders - from Zuckerberg to Gates.

Africa is proving to be fertile ground where opportunity, investment and innovation are concerned, with the African telco sector alone projected to be worth $65bn by 2018. AfricaCom is looking to elevate these sectors further, showcase successes and growth, debate solutions and best practice and enable a more cohesive ecosystem for collaboration between both private and public entities.

The Event

To this end, AfricaCom has been extended and revolutionised from the usual two-day model, to a week-long festival of informative sessions, immersive satellite events and unique networking opportunities, which the African tech space has never seen before.

The setting for this year’s AfricaCom is The Telegraph’s Best City in the World, Cape Town, South Africa - it’s the African Mother City with the international reputation, which is also home to the continent’s highest number of tech hubs.

Taking place between the 14th-18th of November 2016 at the world-renowned Cape Town International Convention Centre, the focus of this year’s event is the economic development and social empowerment of Africa through digital connectivity, and seeks to be a bolder event that encompasses the entire tech ecosystem.

The event will see over 10,000 attendees walk through its doors to hear over 350 visionary speakers deliver their keynote addresses, insights, discussions and showcases centering around Africa’s most pressing topics, challenges and trends.

What's On

The agenda is a thorough exploration of all the sector has to offer the region, from embracing IoT and Smart Cities in an African context, to the potentials of monetising data through analytics and customer insights. The event will also serve to shine a light on greater financial inclusion through mobile innovations and digital transformation, as well as agile IT for enterprises. The development of engaging digital entertainment content in an African context, from television to music, gaming and apps, will also be discussed through a host of case studies and keynote panels. AfricaCom also sees a dedicated SDN and NFV Proof of Concept stream focussing on key solutions for African connectivity service providers.

AfricaCom’s AHUB powered by Ericsson has doubled in size this year with over 50 influential speakers. It is the meeting place for Africa's start-up community; linking business-ready entrepreneurs, developers and start-ups with accelerators, investors, VCs and business mentors. The AHUB will serve as a platform for a number of key innovative start-ups and disruptors, as well as bringing together hundreds of entrepreneurs - allowing delegates to position themselves at the forefront of the technology changing tomorrow and understand how the African investor community operates. What is more, the AHUB is free to attend for all start-ups and investors.

The People

The biggest names in telco and tech will be descending on AfricaCom to deliver their LeadersIn Africa keynote addresses, take part in leaders’ panel discussions, showcases and roundtables, all while looking to elevate the African tech scene and provide in-depth insights and analysis on some of the region’s biggest topics, challenges and opportunities. Some of the leading figures attending AfricaCom 2016 include:

Headline Speakers:

Thione Niang
Co-Founder of Akon Lighting Africa and appointed by president Obama as the ambassador at the US Ministry of Energy

Bisila Bokoko 
Leading figure of the UN’s EMPRETEC programme – fostering entrepreneurship skills for women in Africa

Deshun Deysel
Mountaineer and Businesswoman - the first black woman to climb Mount Everest

Vice President at Internet.org at Facebook

Bruno Mettling
CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa

The AfricaCom agenda at a glance:

A Celebration of Africa Tech

One of the most exciting additions to this year’s event is the AFEST, an evening festival with performances by Africa’s most prominent musicians and bands. Taking place at Shimmy Beach Club on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront on the Tuesday 15 November 2016, the AFEST is an evening of networking and a celebration of African technology. The all-African line-up includes the jazz and house trio Mi Casa and the indie, kwela cross-over band Freshlyground. The night will end with the internationally-renowned DJ and producer Black Coffee, sending home-brewed tunes across the Mother City.

Attending AfricaCom 2016:
It’s not too late to grab your free delegate pass to the AfricaCom exhibition here. To take advantage of all that AfricaCom has to offer, such as: the full conference, LeadersIn Africa Headliners, the AFEST and much more, take a look at our delegate packages here.

If you are a free pass holder you can purchase your AFEST ticket as an add-on here. Don't forget to bring your passes with to gain entrance to the AFEST.

Festival: 14 – 18 November 2016
Exhibition: 15 – 17 November 2016

Cape Town International Convention Centre
Cape Town
South Africa

More info: tmt.knect365.com/africacom


4 Nov 2016

Data Centre Solutions for the Angolan IT and Telco Sectors - A Flexenclosure Case Study

There is set to be a 10 fold increase in mobile data traffic and around 540 million smart phones on the African continent by 2020. The lowering cost of smartphone handsets, coupled with the rise in new mobile innovations and offerings centering around the African consumer is leading to a data boom in 'Digital Africa'. IT and Telecommunication operators on the continent are looking to cost effective and swiftly built data centre solutions to cope with this surge.

Enter Flexenclosure, the designer and manufacturer of prefabricated modular data centres and intelligent power management solutions. Their data centres have been successfully deployed in a number of key regions, stretching from Mozambique to the Cote d'Ivoire.

In this case study, we take a look at one of their most recent projects, a Flexenclosure eCentre for Angola Comunicações e Sistemas (ACS) in Luanda, which has recently been announced as a finalist for the DCD EMEA Modular Data Centre Award.


Angola Comunicações e Sistemas (ACS) is one of Angola’s leading providers of IT solutions and corporate network connectivity. Its core business is the provision of private networks and hosted data and Internet services – via both satellite and broadband wireless technologies – for public sector and enterprise customers, with a key focus on the banking sector.

With its business rapidly expanding, ACS was fast outgrowing its main data centre facility in the centre of the Angolan capital Luanda. But not only was it too small, its antiquated construction made it unsuitable to house highly sensitive ICT equipment.
Further, the construction of many larger buildings around it was causing line of sight problems for their VSAT antennae – a significant issue with many of ACS’ corporate banking clients relying on ACS for mission critical VSAT services.

The solution would require ACS to move its entire operation to an entirely new facility that would serve as a high-redundancy hub for both fibre and satellite communication; that would bring enhanced security for banking transactions and data traffic; and that would enable ACS to plan for long-term business and data colocation service expansion without the need to relocate again in the foreseeable future.

The Challenge

ACS identified a large green-field site in Benfica – the rapidly expanding new business and commercial area of Luanda – at which to establish their new data centre facility.

However, while ideal in terms of space, the site had absolutely no existing infrastructure – water, power, telecoms connectivity, not even a road to get to it. In fact, before any building could begin, the soil itself would need to be improved in order to give it adequate load bearing capability.

These challenges were compounded by the fact that high quality materials, tools and expertise were all in very short supply locally. And the site’s somewhat remote location meant that security would be a major concern – both during construction of the facility and on-going once it was complete and fully operational.

And ACS wanted the facility to be manned 24/7, therefore requiring not only the data centre white space but also a full network operations centre (NOC), office space and associated facilities to be available for its staff.

The Solution

Flexenclosure’s prefabricated eCentre data centre was selected as the ideal solution.

  • A detailed design study was first carried out to make sure that the facility would meet ACS’ needs both immediately and for the future. Flexenclosure then took on ownership of the project as a full turnkey operation including not only the data centre but also the entire site, including the civil works, telecom tower, VSAT farm, NOC, office space, personnel facilities and site infrastructure.
  • Security is state-of-the-art, with a guardhouse and perimeter laser detection system securing entry to the site. Active PTZ CCTV cameras monitor the entire facility while entry to the data centre, NOC and office space is controlled by an advanced biometric access system.
  • The DCIM system provides real-time monitoring of all critical systems including generators, fuel, cooling, UPS, switchgear, fire suppression and alarm systems, enabling early detection and fast resolution of any technical issues. And the racks are also fully monitored with sensors on their front and rear doors logging every time the servers are accessed.
  • The tiered NOC includes a video wall allowing all systems to be visually monitored simultaneously. Office space, a reception area, kitchen and bathroom facilities allow the site to be staffed in comfort 24/7.
  • There is no single point of failure with fully redundant and highly energy efficient power systems securing network uptime for mission critical financial services.
  • And with the 880sqm floor space 1.25MW data centre designed to sit effortlessly within a beautifully landscaped site, the result is a facility that will secure ACS’s future as a leading player in the Angolan ICT services market.

You can download the full case study here.

If  you're interested in the rise Big Data in Africa, why not attend the continent's largest tech and telco event - AfricaCom.

AfricaCom is taking place between the 14th - 18th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can sign up for a free visitor pass to the event here or can book your silver, gold and platinum AfricaCom tickets to all sessions here.


Flexenclosure will be exhibiting at this year's event and you can find out more about their eCentres and eSites at exhibition stand D30.

They will also be delivering a major announcement at the AfricaCom press conference to the continent's media on Tuesday 15th November at 12pm. 

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

1 Nov 2016

Convenience 2.0 - The Platform for Life

By Mark CaseyDeloitte Global Media & Entertainment Leader

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the apps ecosystem—good, bad and ugly. For many countries with consistent access to internet connectivity, access to the digital world via smartphones and other screens has, ironically, created an enormous amount of fragmentation. 

The online world, via apps, should be as easy for us as breathing in and out, but in reality, there’s a clunkiness to the internet. Despite a few isolated (and largely unsuccessful) efforts, there are no apps that aggregate the most common activities we engage in via smartphone, including: navigation, casual communication, dining out, ride-sharing services, payment, filmed entertainment, and the like.

Across companies in many countries, we’ve had a race for dominance; a land grab for a single service (or small set of closely related services). And although there’s significant investment in these types of companies, especially at the startup level, I fear that in the long run, customers simply will not care enough to become loyal to any particular app or service. In effect, companies are asking, “Are there enough nails to hold this building together?” while customers instead are thinking at a different level: “Does this building have all the comforts that would make me want to live here?”

I’ve been particularly interested lately in a major service/app from China, which is detailed beautifully in a New York Times video. Clearly, the closed nature of the internet in China has offered certain advantages, but it’s entirely possible for companies in other countries to mimic this model, assuming they stop thinking about individual services and about a holistic customer experience - a “platform for life.”

In short, I predict that companies that are one-trick ponies won’t survive on their own. With strong investments and patience, companies that will succeed in the long term will focus on a seamless convenience for customers. This extends even beyond apps and to the larger content and service ecosystem, for example: customers want to sit in front of any screen (smartphone, tablet, TV) and access whatever entertainment content they want from a single interface. As another example, many of us have experienced the frustration of wanting to see a particular TV series or film, only to discover that it’s not available on the set of individual services to which we’ve subscribed. 

So, take this as a wake-up call to media companies of all stripes: make strong alliances and smart moves that offer customers a single interface for everything they do. If you’re going to own the customer of the future, you’ll have to create superaggregation. Become the platform for life. It’s not easy, but as the example from China has shown us, it’s possible.

About Deloitte:

Deloitte is a proud sponsor of the LeadersIn Africa Summit at AfricaCom 2016 – a meeting place for those driving Africa’s digital transformation. At LeadersIn Africa, Deloitte Global Media & Entertainment leader, Mark Casey, will be facilitating a Think Tank session on New Business Models – engaging with leaders in the telco sector on how to innovate business models to remain relevant and compete in digital Africa. Deloitte Africa Telecommunications Leader, Arun Babu will be moderating a discussion at 9am on 16 November, on new opportunities in Africa’s vibrant and rapidly converging telecoms, media and technology industries.

If you would like to find out more about AfricaCom 2016, taking place between the 14th - 18th November 2016, please click here.

You can sign up for a free visitor pass to the event here or can book your silver, gold and platinum AfricaCom tickets to all sessions here.

About the author:

Mark Casey
Deloitte Global Media & Entertainment Leader
Email: mcasey@deloitte.co.za

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

31 Oct 2016

African LTE adoption will quickly be followed by soaring IoT applications – is your network ready?

By Inna Ott - Director of Marketing, Polystar

Across Africa, LTE subscriptions are surging ahead, bringing the benefits of mobile broadband access to millions of new customers each year. 

According to Ericsson’s forecast for Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE subscriptions are expected to reach 20% of the total user base – which is itself growing rapidly, driven by new subscriptions, as well as uptake of other technologies, including WCDMA [1].

This is great news for the continent – and the situation is likely to evolve considerably, as operators extend their investments through the additional deployment of VoLTE services. Already, as Ericsson reports, more than 30 operators have launched LTE in the region, with many more expected to come. As a result, we can expect that VoLTE will swiftly follow.

"Higher speed access will unlock a range of new services that differ from the core template"

This creates an interesting situation. On the one hand, the classical mix of voice, data and messaging services can be expected to thrive, with more users, more subscriptions and more devices. On the other, new, higher speed access will unlock a range of new services that differ from the core template. Such services will include a growing range of IoT and M2M applications, enabled by high speed mobile connectivity and better overall coverage. Operators need to be able to ensure that existing services perform as the user expects, while also preparing to support a host of unknown new services.

As a result, operators need to consider two key points. First, how will they obtain the service visibility they need to deliver the right level of customer experience, across a diverse network base (combining legacy and LTE technologies) that will evolve further as VoLTE is added to the mix? Second, how will they simultaneously obtain the same level of visibility for new services which may have very different performance benchmarks and requirements from those to which they are accustomed?

"IoT applications offer the promise of new revenue streams and an expanded addressable market"

IoT applications offer the promise of new revenue streams and an expanded addressable market but present new challenges. While KPIs and benchmarks for classical services, such as voice are well understood, those for new IoT services and applications may, as yet, be unknown. Some services will have minimal network demands – for example, the transfer of simple sensor measurements or location positioning from remote devices – while others, for which LTE provides the requisite infrastructure, will be more complex. 

These will include new applications to address key verticals, such as remote healthcare monitoring, or will enable the delivery of extended educational programmes, for example. At the moment, we don’t know what all of these services will be, but we can safely say that there will be many of them and that there will be a burst of innovation, as people both bring existing services to the region from elsewhere and also as people within the region find local solutions for their unique needs and challenges. 

"How do you deliver and maintain the network uptime and service quality that a wide - and growing - range of IoT applications will require?"

All of which takes us back to the second point we noted. How do you deliver and maintain the network uptime and service quality that a wide - and growing - range of IoT applications will require? Can mobile networks handle the volume of devices that may be deployed by each customer? Can operators ensure that their networks meet highly variable or even volatile quality of service demands?

So, LTE both adds to the existing network complexity while, at the same time, providing a platform for future innovation, particularly for IoT applications. In this context, it’s essential that operators take the necessary steps to prepare for a flood of new traffic, from a wide range of different sources. They need to adapt, so that they can obtain the visibility of service performance necessary to ensure that they deliver the right customer experiences, whether to a person or whether for a device servicing an application. In short, they need a continuous, real-time stream of insights derived from all network data in order to assure both overall and application-level performance. 

"As Africa moves to embrace LTE and to embark on the IoT revolution, operators need to be sure that they have the appropriate tools in place"

This means that there will be a wide range of internal users of such information. It’s no longer sufficient to provide rich data only to network operations teams. Other departments and groups must be able to view and act on insights gathered from the network. This means that operators need systems and solution in place to both collect and then filter data in a way that is appropriate to the needs of each relevant user.

That’s quite a challenge, but there are already solutions available that can meet this goal, serving both classical services, irrespective of the network on which they are delivered, as well as new and emerging IoT services. As Africa moves to embrace LTE and to embark on the IoT revolution, operators need to be sure that they have the appropriate tools in place to support both this transition as well as the next phase of network evolution. Are you ready?

About Polystar:

Meet POLYSTAR at AfricaCom, Stand B37, to discuss how we can help you solve your operational challenges.

Book your meeting with the Polystar team, by contacting us at marketing@polystar.com 

About the writer:

Inna Ott has more than 15 year's experience in the communications industry. Prior to joining Polystar, she held a number of sales and marketing positions in leading organisations. Since 2013 Inna has been leading Polystar’s marketing department, with responsibility for Global Marketing and Corporate Communications. Inna’s primary focus is to drive increased global demand for Polystar’s solutions, by growing the visibility, recognition and awareness of Polystar’s brand.

If you are interested in how LTE technology is evolving telecommunications on the African continent, why not attend AfricaCom 2016?

Africa's biggest tech and telco event is taking place between the 14th - 18th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can sign up for a free visitor pass to the event here or can book your silver, gold and platinum AfricaCom tickets to all sessions here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

28 Oct 2016

AfricaCom Speaker Spotlight - Uber's Timothy Willis

By Amy Turner, KNect365 staff Writer

With Uber racking up over 2 million trips on South African roads in the first six months of last year, in stark comparison to the 1 million trips taken throughout the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014, the digital giant's popularity has skyrocketed on the continent.

Uber has become a firm part of the South African transportation ecosystem and the term "I'm going to just Uber it" is a widely heard phrase while out and about in the nation's major cities.

I chatted with Uber's Central Operations Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, Timothy Willis, ahead of his presentation at this year's AfricaCom, about data insights, the unique operating challenges Africa presents and what he's most looking forward to at this year's event.

1. We look forward to welcoming you to AfricaCom next month, you will be delivering the presentation: ‘Uber – the big data company’, what kinds of data and insight is most meaningful to Uber and in your capacity as, more specifically?

In my role as Central Operations Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, my team focuses on three key areas: (1) Supply Operations, (2) Analytics and (3) Process.

From a Supply Operations perspective, we’re continually monitoring the number of driver-partners that are online and considering whether we need to encourage more to go online, or move to busier areas. We’re always looking at how best Driver-Partners are using our technology and how we can improve that experience. An example of this is Forward Dispatch, which allows drivers who are already on a trip to get another one if their drop-off location and a rider’s pick-up location are at the same place. 

"In any start-up, scaling your processes is really important. The decision on which process to build out and scale is always based on data"

On the analytics and process side, we’re always trying to identify the major challenges of the business and improve our processes to deal with them. In any start-up, scaling your processes is really important. The decision on which process to build out and scale is always based on data. We’re are always analysing data to best understand our business. 

"We’re customer obsessed at Uber"

2. How has Uber been able to leverage its data and analytics to improve customer experience? What has the practical application looked like?

We’re customer obsessed at Uber and that means we are looking through at how we can improve the experience for all riders and drivers on the platform. For instance, a lot of riders requested scheduled rides. We realised there was a business case to scale this product and so today you’re able to schedule a ride with Uber.

"Road networks are not as developed and congestion is a challenge in most of our markets"

3. Uber has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in South Africa which has subsequently spread through Kenya and Nigeria, how does operating in Sub-Saharan Africa differ from that of say the UK and North America?

There are unique challenges to operating in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to the UK and North America. For example, road networks are not as developed and congestion is a challenge in most of our markets. It is our job to overcome these challenges and ensure riders and drivers have a seamless Uber experience. 

"I’m looking forward to seeing how AfricaCom will become a powerful vehicle for digital transformation"

4. What are you looking to gain from attending and speaking at AfricaCom 2016?

I’m excited to see what the audience will think of using data and analytics as a tool to improve the customer experience.

5. What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?

I’m looking forward to seeing how AfricaCom will become a powerful vehicle for digital transformation, economic development and social empowerment. I’m also you looking forward to interacting with leaders in the industry.

Timothy Willis will be speaking on: Uber - the big data company at this year's AfricaCom, on 16th November 2016. Find out more here.

If you are interested in how tech and telco is enabling socioeconomic development and and innovation on the African continent, why not attend AfricaCom 2016?

Africa's biggest tech and telco event is taking place between the 14th - 18th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can sign up for a free visitor pass to the event here or can book your silver, gold and platinum AfricaCom tickets to all sessions here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

25 Oct 2016

Finance and Commerce on the ‘Mobile Continent’

By Com Series staff writer Kamau Mbote, @First Communications

Over the past few years, mobile money in Africa has largely played the role usually filled by Western traditional banking institutions, with just 20% of the African population having access to mainstream financial systems in 2010. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is rated as having the lowest deposit institution penetration in the world according to a paper by the African Development Bank, Mobile Banking in Africa: Taking the Bank to the People.

Over the years, mobile money has connected millions of people with banking services especially in East Africa, where mobile money is leading other regions of the world and which initially had among the lowest financial inclusion rates globally.

In the early days of mobile money in 2007, only 30% of Kenyans had access to banking services. In other East African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania AfDB showed that one branch served more than 100,000 people. In Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana a branch served 25,000, 33,000 and 25,000 customers respectively. During the same period in the West African nation of Gabon, only 35 branches were in place countrywide.

With the introduction of mobile money, the populace in these regions embraced this innovation much faster in comparison to areas where the mainstream or traditional financial and banking insitutions were evident.

"Sub-Saharan Africa transfers more money domestically via mobile money than any other region in the world"

More recently, the Global Findex 2015 edition estimates that the number of unbanked individuals globally dropped by 20% in the period 2011 to 2014. In Sub-Saharan Africa to be precise, where 17% remains unbanked, 13 countries have more than 10% of their adult population using mobile money and more people are using mobile accounts than bank accounts in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. In other countries mobile subscribers can now open bank accounts using the mobile money platform.

According to the report, Sub-Saharan Africa transfers more money domestically via mobile money than any other region in the world, with up to 28% of the population receiving a domestic remittance in 2014.

The Ericsson Regional Sub-Saharan Africa Report noted that mobile money has allowed the 70% of the unbanked and marginalized segments to start to see the promise of financial inclusion across Africa, with mobile operators becoming beneficiaries of this revolution.

The report sites that the leading operators in the region are deriving up to 20% of their revenue from mobile commerce services, improving business prospects even as voice revenue growth slows.

"63% of the total population in Sub-Saharan Africa is unbanked"

Nigeria has the largest share of unbanked currently (53%) followed by Ghana, Angola and Uganda, according to another report by Ericsson, Financial Services For Everyone . In these countries, the report identifies that the level of awareness remains low while only 33% of all respondents said they know how to use mobile money on their mobile phones.

Among consumers who were aware of the services yet chose not to use them, a large proportion commented that they didn’t think the service was necessary or that it seemed too complicated.

According to the report, mobile money services are bridging the gap between the unbanked and banked as more have access to mobile money compared to banking services. The report further shows that 63% of the total population in Sub-Saharan Africa is unbanked and 52% of the total population uses mobile money through an agent.

Connecting the financially excluded through new mobile solutions

Some of the reasons why the majority of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa has been financially excluded or that have led led to low financial inclusion include deficient infrastructure, inaccessibility or physical-geographical isolation and financial illiteracy that ultimately led to high cost of financial services, which out of reach for many potential customers. 

These problems can be solved by using mobile money as devices are now more than ever affordable and do not necessarily require smart devices to deliver these products.

This said there, other challenges still exist that will require more of education than technology as the reasons for individuals lacking banking accounts include: lack of documentation, lack of trust, family member has an account, religious reasons among others.

Building an interconnected and transparent financial ecosystem

There is a consensus that building an interconnected and transparent financial ecosystem involves telecommunication providers and banks ensuring their mobile payment services are: secure, stable, scalable, flexible and above all trustworthy.

A secure, stable, scalable, flexible and trustworthy ecosystem entices quick uptake by customers and ensures business innovation.

In this case, telcos should look to develop systems that allow mobile subscribers to access their bank accounts securely, in a timely manner in a platform that's scalable to include other services financial institutions offer, other than merely cash deposits and withdrawals. 

"M-PESA, the largest mobile money platform globally, has connected more than 20 million Kenyans"

Telcos and banks also need to enable the customer to understand fully all the charges that result from mobile money transactions between the two institutions, as well as challenges or deficiencies that the platform has that could lead to delays, fraud, hacking among other vulnerabilities.

A case in point is M-PESA, the largest mobile money platform globally, which has connected more than 20 million Kenyans and there are more than 100,000 agents and over 44,0000 merchants who accept M-PESA payments. There are more than 40 financial institutions that interconnect with M-PESA and other partners such as government payments, M-KOPA in energy and mTiba in Health.

According to Head of Strategy at Safaricom, Ken Okwero, by linking into M-PESA, each of these partners can tap into the more than 23 million M-PESA customers.

“The larger benefit is however on the customer’s side, where customers benefit from the convenience of different use cases, from person-to-person transfers, cashless payment of bills, or even access to new services that they did not have before, such as: instant loans, micro savings products, affordable health and crop insurance,” Ken Okwero adds.

Achieving interoperability among mobile network operators, banks, merchants and government

Pundits say the benefit of an inter-operable financial services to operators is that it can lead to a mobile money service without limits. According to Ericsson, a leading provider of mobile money solutions software, the key success of mobile money lies in a partnership between telcos and banks, as well as the right infrastructure and financial services portfolios.

“We are driving this change to make money more open by orchestrating collaboration between banks and operators and developing secure, flexible mobile commerce platforms, that help build an interconnected and transparent financial ecosystem,” says Peter Heuman, VP Deputy Head of Business Unit Support Solutions at Ericsson.

"The key success of mobile money lies in a partnership between telcos and banks, as well as the right infrastructure and financial services portfolios"

Telcos and banks must also adjoin their services and products to the needs of government and merchants to support payments, with the public and private sector reliant on each other either for supply of liquidity, goods and services, or even in the line of licensing and regulation.

Some of the ways telcos and banks could enable better and streamlined interaction between government and the private sector, as well as members of the public, is by enabling payments to various agencies by mobile money eliminating the need for cash transactions in government offices.

According to the Global Findex 2015 edition, 1.3 billion adults with an account in developing countries pay their waste removal, water, and electricity bills in cash, and over half a billion adults with an account in developing countries pay school fees in cash, thus access to digital payments through a mobile phone could create opportunities to provide more convenient and affordable payment options.

In a few other countries, the government has already teamed up with various telecommunication service providers to enable payments of licenses and other documents such as birth and death certificates, eliminating the physical need for citizens to physically go to offices.

“The benefit here has been in sealing the revenue leakage, convenience for taxpayers in the form of alternate channels and the ability to pay for services anytime. The capacity to accept electronic payments also enables the government to offer services through digital channels, as we have seen with the roll-out of the eCitizen platform in Kenya,” says Okwero.

How OTT players can collaborate with operators to refine business models

“A balanced co-operation between mobile network operators and Over-the-Top (OTT) players is required to develop a win-win ecosystem as operators cannot be in complete control of the internet ecosystem, while a broadband pipeline that lacks appealing content and applications means little to end users,” said Ahmad Farroukh, Chief Executive Officer at MTN South Africa, while addressing delegates at AfricaCom 2014.

This shows that while telco operators may have control of the mobile money platforms through their huge customer base and financial position, the broad scope of services they provide inhibits them from coming up with new innovative products, a part that can be played by OTT players. Telco operators can then provide the platform at a cost while allowing OTT app providers to own the customer and make money.

For this collaboration to work, mobile network operators and OTT players need to define access and structure a fair deal for both parties. This however does not mean exposing their customer base or revenue streams for OTT players. Such deals can be refined through forums that clearly define rules of engagement.

To this end, a number of telcos in Sub-Saharan Africa have partnered with a number of Value Added Services players that offer content around games, video and music to enable them to tap into operator billing, which facilitates service delivery in a convenient and seamless way to customers.

Above all, Farroukh thinks there can be immense benefits for both OTT players and telcos where the latter continues to invest in technology to provide best customer experience for OTT users.

Mobile Finance and Commerce at AfricaCom 2016:

This year's AfricaCom, taking place between the 14-18 November 2016, will be showcasing all the latest innovations in African mobile finance and digital commerce. The Mobile Finance and Commerce stream taking place over the 15 - 16 November will comprise of Key Note Panels and discussions around the latest FinTech solutions and connecting the financially excluded..

Some of the key speakers include Safaricom's Ken Okwero, Telkom's Floris Buys, African Development Bank's Maimouna Gueye, MTN's Hanlie Smuts and Equity Bank's John Staley.

To find out more about the largest tech and telco event in Africa and book you tickets, click here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here: